Over five hundred people have donated money to this project. Even though most of these supporters will never do a long retreat, they have felt a connection to the project. Some know how important long retreat is to the lineage and see the value of long retreat reflected in the wisdom of Dharma teachers; others hope to do a long retreat, and still others have seen the value of retreat in their loved ones. Below are just a sampling of the stories of some of the donors to the project.
Venerable Bokar Rinpoche, 1940-2004
Venerable Bokar Rinpoche was a holder of the Karma and Shangpa Kagyu lineage, and a meditation master with a remarkable connection to retreats. In his own lifetime, he participated in two three-year retreats, and was the retreat master for several more—both at Rumtek, the Indian monastery of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, as well as his own monastery in Mirik, India. In 1999, thirty members of the KCC sangha visited Rinpoche in Mirik to ask his advice about whether we should build our own retreat facilities. Based on his encouragement, KCC was inspired to launch the project. Later, when Rinpoche made his own offering to the campaign, we were touched and heartened by his support. He sent along a letter with his donation that included these words:
This real foundation for an authentic living tradition to emerge is through individuals becoming properly grounded in the Dharma’s teachings and practices. Thus, I strongly encourage all of you to work together in creating ideal retreat facilities, where short- and long-term individual and group retreats can take place. Please consider all the ways each and every one of you can support these noble causes so that they will be accomplished in the shortest possible time.
Janet McAlpin found the long-retreat project indirectly, through her dear friend, Karen Nelson. The two originally came together as a result of their shared interest in the performing arts. Their friendship grew, over two decades, to include a passion for the Dharma. A pilgrimage to Tibet and meeting with Venerable Bokar Rinpoche in India helped them discover how they each needed the other to accomplish these meaningful activities. Having already decided to support Karen in her aspiration to take part in the three-year retreat at SCOL, Janet decided to play a much bigger role in the project. Her decision followed a visit to Goldendale as the nascent retreat center was taking shape. Offering a $400,000 matching gift in 2005, she asked, “What could be more important in this lifetime?” and decided, “There’s nothing better that will be coming along.” Her generosity is one of the reasons we’re in a position to complete the cloister now.
In some ways, Sandy Pollock is a typical member of KCC; he regularly attends retreats and events and chats with other community members on Facebook. But in one key way, he’s different than most—Sandy lives a thousand miles away, in Los Angeles. A medical doctor and kidney disease specialist, Sandy found KCC through mutual connections when he and KCC Resident Teacher Michael Conklin still lived in San Francisco. His first formal interaction with KCC was a ten-day retreat in 1997, and his connection deepened over the years. He took refuge with Lama Conklin the following year, and has been a close member of the community—despite his physical distance—ever since. In 2009, Sandy made a generous donation that helped complete the long retreat cloister’s South Wing. Although Sandy is rare, he’s not alone; KCC counts as members folks from Michigan, Washington, New York, and California.
Chozen and Hogen Bays
Since 1985, Chozen and Hogen Bays have served as teachers for the Zen Community of Oregon. In 2002, the Bays founded the Great Vow Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon—a project similar in size and ambition to KCC’s efforts at Ser Chö Ösel Ling. Over the past decade, the Bays have been generous with their time and money, offering KCC both insight about their experience at Great Vow as well as personal offerings to the project. Great Vow has hosted joint retreats with KCC, and the Bays have welcomed members of KCC’s sangha to do personal retreat in Clatskanie. “We are pleased to support projects like the retreat center in Goldendale that offer a place for practitioners to deepen their practice in a healthy community.”
Jim Kimball has been a member of Kagyu Changchub Chuling since 2002, and the long-retreat project at Ser Chö Ösel Ling soon attracted his attention. A retired manager of engineering research, Jim is one of several members who commutes to KCC from long distances—in his case, Corvallis, 85 miles south of Portland. Before becoming a member of KCC, Jim had spent decades as a member of a Quaker community. Perhaps because of his experience working with organizations, Jim joined KCC’s Board of Directors. His interest in the long retreat project arises from his experience with lamas like Michael Conklin who have completed them. “On the Board of Directors, we have always been focused on the long term, to create a place where people can practice the authentic Dharma for decades to come.” For this reason, Jim has not only donated generously to the campaign but is one of three dozen who have put KCC in their will.
The long-retreat project at KCC would never have happened without the interest of long-time practitioners like Cathy Neumann. As their practice deepened, several members of the sangha became inspired to do traditional three-year retreats typical of the Shangpa Lineage, and their interest sparked the entire sangha to pursue the project. In the years since the project began, Cathy has been closely involved, donating money and serving as the first lead fundraiser. In 2008, she left her career as a professor of Environmental Health at Oregon State University in order to focus on Dharma activity, practice and study. In February 2010, Cathy did a one-month retreat at SCOL and followed that with a two-month retreat in 2011. She noted, “SCOL is such a wonderful place to do retreat, the land is beautiful and cabins so well-built. It brought me great joy to see the fruits of so many sangha members’ hard work finally come to fruition.” Cathy plans to do the first one-year retreat starting in March 2013, a long-term aspiration that is now coming to fruition—how wonderful—EMAHO!